“I am writing you to find out if what I have is of any value,” wrote Ron Venda to Trash or Treasure recently. “It’s a piece of Detroit history. †
He went on in the email to add additional information. “I work for Daifuku America who brought the Jervis B. Webb Company back in 2006. Until 2020 we were still operating as Jervis B. Webb Company. While I was in the estimating department a few years back, I was asked if I wanted to take on another assignment going to the storage facility where all the old job files and drawings were kept and clean it out to reduce the storage fee.
“I took on the task and found some interesting stuff while cleaning it out…one item I found was the Williamson-Webb job #3 for the Studebaker plant in Detroit. The job file contained layout sketch #1 dated September 27th, 1920 of the proposed conveyor for Studebaker hand drawn in pencil by Jervis B. Webb. The file also contains the bill of materials for the conveyor. This was the conveyor that got the automobile industry ready for mass production.”
“Whether it has any value, I have no clue,” he explained to appraiser Bob DuMouchelle, who took a closer look at the downtown auction house, marveling the pieces still exist. “Detroit was the Silicon Valley of its time,” he explained, adding “people flocked to Detroit.”
Historical artifacts like these do have value, he says, although it’s a limited market if Venda were to sell. “We have sold things like this through the years,” DuMouchelle explained, adding that the best market is research libraries or archives who may be looking for a specific item like Venda’s “It’s a piece of the puzzle to them,” he says.
The limited market makes it harder to appraise, he says, adding that Venda’s pieces of history could be worth anywhere from $200 to $400 for a general audience, but could fetch up to $1,000 if the right special market was interested. “These things are one-of-a-kind,” he said.
Venda followed up after the appraisal event with even more interesting information. “After I left the appraisal session I did some research as to where the conveyor system was put in,” he wrote in a second email.
“As it turns out it was put in the old Ford Piquette Plant on Piquette Ave when Studebaker purchased from Henry Ford. The conveyor system was in the other plant that Studebaker added to the Ford plant which is now becoming apartments. Studebaker was at that location until 1958 when they closed. After Studebaker, 3M took it over. I contacted the Studebaker Museum in Indiana to see if they wanted it and they told me to contact the Piquette plant. My wife and I went to the Ford plant and showed the staff there and they were excited to see the drawing. So I donated to them with hopes they will display it.”
About these items
Item: Automotive artifacts
Owned by: Ron Venda
Appraised by: Bob DuMouchelle
Estimated value: $200 and up